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STALKING in the U.S.; Pandemic of Epic Porportions
Part One in a Thirteen Part Series
STALKING is roughly defined (in California) as one person making another person feel unsafe or uncomfortable in their own surroundings. This broadly expanded definition is a major improvement over the one in place years ago when I was dealing with a deranged ex-. In the 1990's the definition of stalking was narrowly defined as serious bodily harm in front of credible witnesses.
STALKING can range from MILD to SEVERE. Mild stalking might include someone following you in their car, hovering around you at your workplace, always parking next to you in the parking lot, or just paying obvious, intrusive and unwanted attention to you. It might be a neighbor is always around when you go outside, a friend's husband who seems to "coincidentally" run into you around town, or an ex- that takes up jogging at the same park you do. If you have noticed someone being just too, too attentive and the hair on the back of your neck stands up because something just isn't "right" you are being stalked.
At the other end of the spectrum STALKING can be SEVERE. The threat of being kidnapped, raped, maimed or killed is very real. Or having something similar happen to any of your loved ones, spouse, children or pets. SEVERE STALKING needs to be * reported to the appropriate authorities immediately. * No if's and's or but's. *
STALKING is abuse. STALKING is a violation of boundaries. STALKING can cause long-term physical, emotional and financial damage. STALKING is serious business and can get out of hand quickly.
13-Part STALKING Series Prompted by Comments and Emails
Recently I wrote a Hub: http://hubpages.com/hub/Promotion-vs-Privacy-A-Personal-and-Professional-Predicament
I wrote it to alert/warn some of our newer/younger Hubbers who might not be fully aware of the very real dangers caused by exposing too much information about themselves over the Internet. (And once the information is out there, it can't be taken back!)
Quickly the Comments in my Promotion vs. Privacy Hub turned to the subject of STALKING. With the advent of the Internet, STALKING has become easier, faster and more dangerous. I was shocked by the immediate response. About a dozen of us opted to continue the sensitive nature of our correspondence in private, encrypted emails.
I had been working on a series of Hubs about STALKING (possible causes, how to stay safe, the resources available to victims, etc.) to be published after the New Year. In the meantime I was concentrating on Hubs that brought peace and joy and smiles to Holiday Angel faces. Prayers. Poems. Jokes. Recipes. Feel Good Stories.
Again, "Life happens when we are making plans."I hadn't considered publishing this Thirteen Part Series of Hubs quite this soon. But it became painfully clear that the BEST Holiday Gift I could share with fellow Hubbers is validation and resources for protecting their own lives.
I write from experience. Terrifying, earth-shaking, life-threatening STALKING. Not the "I love you babe and want you back" misguided clumsy inappropriate annoying attempts at proof of passion and reconciliation. I am writing about the "If I can't have you, no one can -- the only way I can ensure that is for you to be dead" unending, ever-present, crazy-making, PTSD-causing, severe threat to life, limb and loved ones.
Much to my dismay, STALKING in the U.S. has become much more prevasive in the last decade. And even worse, women are feeling even MORE isolated.
I just didn't want another day to go by (in this Season of Love and Joy) with the possibility that someone out there is currently being threatened and is also feeling hopeless and alone.
You are not alone. And there are more resources available than you might ever have imagined.
Violence Against Women
90% of stalking is by men against women. I don't want to dismiss the horrible affects that can happen when the roles are reversed (another Hub). For now, however I am writing about the majority of stalking cases in the U.S.
Women are especially susceptible to stalking, harassment, intimidation and violence for obvious reasons:
1. Women are not (usually) as physically strong as the men who stalk them;
2. Women who are pregnant are even more vulnerable (for 2-3 years per child they have);
3. Women are more likely to have self-esteem rooted in the success (or failure) of their relationships;
4. Women are less likely to report stalking because they feel they are somehow to blame;
5. Women are less likely to report stalking because they fear matters will only get worse;
6. Women often dismiss or excuse inappropriate behavior because they tend to want to avoid conflict;
7. Women, when they turn to men friends and loved ones for help, are often dismissed and told not to worry about it;
8. The out-dated but still used definition of abuse includes and is limited to physical harm only;
9. Stalking often starts as flattering attention before turning ugly;
10. Women (young girls) are often taught to substitute someone else's judgement (especially authority figures) for their own;
11. Women are more likely to let a stalker know they are frightened thereby giving a stalker more momentum to continue;
12. Women do not want to "burden" anyone else;
13. Women do not want to be seen as "hysterical," "over reactive," or in "need of constant attention and reinforcement."
14. Women too easily dismiss their own intuition.
Not Your Average Run-of-the-Mill Following Someone
I also want to make clear that this series of Hubs is not aimed at your average, run of the mill, disgruntled ex- boyfriend (or girlfriend) driving by your house once or twice situation. Although unsettling, this usually passes without incident. Experts advise ignoring this behavior as the fastest way to discourage its continuation.
This series of Hubs is not for women (or men) who, for whatever reason, fake or exaggerate being followed/pursued by an ex- to make their current love jealous and/or to motivate them to sit up and take notice.
This series of Hubs is not for women (or men) who, for whatever reason, thrive on the drama-factor and need constant attention, even negative, to feel loved.
This series of Hubs is for women (and in later Hubs, men) whose lives have been turned upside down by the ongoing threat from another person. Women who can't eat, can't sleep and can't make a move without worrying out the consequences of simple actions. Women who literally take their lives into their own hands just by showing up for work, visiting the dentist, or picking their kids up from daycare. Women who will suffer the damage of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder long after their stalker gives up or is incarcerated.
Reasons for the Increase in Stalking in the U.S.
The U.S. is a violent country compared to the rest of the civilized world;
The U.S. Administration has determined "War and Invasion" is a legitimate tool for conflict resolution;
The U.S. entertainment media is full of violence of all kinds, especially against women;
In the past, Stalking was harder to prove and prosecute;
Stalking is abuse. Stalking is violence. Even if there is no physical contact.
Why do Stalkers Stalk?
Because they can. And most of the time they get away with it.
Sometimes STALKERSdon't even realize they are doing anything wrong. They falsely assume the woman should be flattered by their constant attention. They rationalize they haven't "harmed a single hair." That is incorrect. Violating a person's boundaries harms the soul. Shattering the foundation of a person's belief system regarding safety lasts for decades. The finances required to protect, prosecute and many times relocate force many victims into bankruptcy.
Most of the time STALKERS are people we know. Or have known. Often intimately. In the U.S. there is an "assumption of ownership." We speak in possessive terms like, my spouse, my children, my home. This assumption is a misnomer; we don't own anyone. Unfortunately, STALKERS often feel they have "rights" that have been wronged.
STALKING is not about Love. It is not romantic. It is not about concern.
STALKING is not about the person being stalked. It is ALL about the Stalker.
STALKING is about CONTROL. It is a highly narcissitic activity by people who are insecure about themselves and have no courage of character. STALKING is seen as an option ONLY to those without a well developed set of Life Skills for resolving conflict/differences.
Remedies to Mild Stalking
First, a cell phone with photo taking capabilities is a woman's best friend. The photo doesn't have to be crystal clear. A photo can be enhanced by professionals even if taken from a far, or from your car, or out your windows and is proof enough. A photo will also automatically date and time stamp itself. DO NOT go anywhere without it. (I don't even walk my dog in my own front yard without it!)
If the Stalking falls into the MILD category a firm direct clear demand to the offender should suffice. "I do not want you to come within 10/20/100/500 feet of me anymore. I am sorry if this hurts your feelings. For some reason you make me feel uncomfortable and I am not willing to feel that way anymore." That usually works the first time. If not, try again and add, "I have asked you once to stay away from me. If you come around me again I will report you to security/police/boss/human resources." Be prepared for the offender to be shocked and "have no idea" of what you are talking about. Stand your ground. Be consistent. (And once Mr. Friendly starts behaving himself, please do not invite him to be your buddy and make nice.)
Note: If your boss or superior is the one making you feel uncomfortable, it also falls into the Harassment category. (Another Hub) You have even more rights.
If Stalking is in the SEVERE category, an immediate police report is in order. I know this sounds extreme to many women who feel they "have no proof" but it is imperative. Few days goes by that the news doesn't report a missing woman, found dead later.
Note: * If you are in a SEVERE situation right now, and/or your stalker is part of law enforcement (mine was) the remedies are a little more complicated. BUT THERE ARE REMEDIES. Contact me through Hub Pages directly.
Cell Phones with Built-in Camera
Let Me Be Clear
STALKING of any kind is unacceptable. Period. It is also illegal in most states and developed countries. (The California program is being adopted by most other states in 2007-2008.)
There are ZERO circumstances where STALKING is acceptable. Spouses spying on spouses, furious ex-'s, suspected thieves, etc. ZERO REASONS to STALK SOMEONE. There are other ways to handle each.
If you see yourself in any of the above circumstances, get help. NOW. It is better to act early and deescalate the circumstances than let it get out of hand and need federal protection. Or worse.
If you see yourself DOING any of the above, even inadvertently, STOP IT IMMEDIATELY.
Stalking and Violence Against Women
Thirteen Hubs in this Series on STALKING
STALKING, Harrassement, Intimidation, Abuse: The Similarities and Differences
STALKING: The Law, Restraining Orders, Effective Resources and the Underground Movement
STALKING: Women Stalking Men; A Different Strategy
STALKING: Financial, Whistle Blowing, Retaliation, Other Reasons
STALKING: A Comprehensive Game Plan for Safety
STALKING and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
STALKING: Forensic Psychology, Talking Therapies, Journaling
STALKING: Understanding a Stalker's Mind, Motivation and (version of) Logic Can Save Your Life
When the STALKER is the Father (or Mother) of Your Children
When the STALKER has Special Armed Forces Training
Women Stalking Women, Men Stalking Men, Gay or Straight
Stalked and Lived to Tell It: A Silver Lining